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Windows XP Launch Touts Significant 802.11 Enhancements

Microsoft and Agere today reiterated Windows XP support for 802.11 products in anticipation of the operating system's launch on Thursday. Microsoft is hoping that this week's launch of its new Windows XP operating system vaults it into the spotlight of the 802.11 game as it touts the new operating system's native support for IEEE 802.1x and other WLAN standards. Agere today announced the release of its new Access Point 2000 (AP-2000) which it states is an integral component of the new operating systems's enhanced features.

Microsoft and Agere announced in June that the latter was releasing drivers for support of its Orinoco 802.11b products for use with Windows XP.Last week, 802.11-Planet also reported that Wayport had successfully tested Windows XP used in conjunction with the 802.1x standard. The two companies stated that Windows XP in conjunction with ORiNOCO products provides both a significantly improved roaming experience and important security enhancements.

Microsoft claims that Windows XP incorporates three solutions to enterprise-level deployment concerns regarding 802.11 products. The three XP features that address these are 802.1x security, VPN functionality, and RADIUS.

Microsoft is highlighting key security features of its Windows XP operating that it says speak to many of the concerns about user authentication and key-distribution. Agere today announced the release of its new Access Point 2000 (AP-2000), which the companies claim uses Windows XP and IEEE 802.1x security protocols to provide user-based authentication and automatic key-distrubution to the wireless system. Authentication is certificate based (EAP-TLS) via RADIUS server and provides mutual authentication. The AP-2000's re-keying mechanism can be set to refresh at set intervals. In addition, Agere stated that its implementation of the 802.1x security standard distributes WEP keys in both directions (one up and one down key), which it states is more secure than other vendor's 802.1x implementations which used a fixed WEP key from the AP to the client device.

The other key WLAN feature that the companies are highlighting in Windows XP is what is being called 'media sense.' Computers equipped with either the ORiNOCO WLAN PC Card, PC module, or USB Client device are automatically recognized when the user is in range in a wireless network. The solution automatically recognizes where the user is and sets up the appropriate network and security protocols. When the user moves to a new location with a network, the system detects it and prompts the user to decide if they want to connect to that network.

The Agere AP-2000 is a dual slot device - meaning that it can host both 802.11a and 802.11b radios, or any combination thereof. It uses the company's Wireless Distribution System (WDS), enabling a single radio in the AP to act as a repeater or bridge. It also includes MAC access control tables and RADIUS access control implementation. The AP-2000, according to Agere, can be monitored and configured from a standard Web browser. It incorporates SNMP management, TFTP kernel upload, extended MIBs and traps, and embedded Telnet and CLI.

Agere stated that the AP is available now at an MSRP of $1,295.

Matthew Peretz is Managing Editor of 802.11-Planet.com